Big Behavioral Data Science

There was once a time when it was unimaginable that real-time traffic insights could become an essential tool in everyday urban life. But we now take these advances for granted and demand much more from data science.

Behavioural Big Data

Similarly, the time is not too far in future when automatic and real-time psychological insights on behavior will become the new way of life.

The Science of Psychology is standing on the cusp of a massive transformation.

An Experiment that amazed many

It is a field of study that is up and coming. Interesting insights have been observed and are being implemented to sort the day to day life of people, courtesy of it. However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding this field. This is a result of the already existing ignorance that many individuals share about psychology as a science and the newness of the Big Data Sciences.

However, if we understand the basic principles that contribute to both Psychology and Big Data Sciences, the connection seems apparent.

David Stillwell, Director at Cambridge’s Psychometric Center did a research in Cambridge University, from 2007 to 2012. He collected Facebook profiles of the research participants and other relevant data through a survey. The Facebook profile information of the research participants was collected through an app called myPersonality that was on Facebook itself. The research allowed users to take legitimate psychological surveys and receive real-time custom-made feedback.

It was a massive study conducted upon 7.5 million participants, out of which 2 million also granted access to their Facebook accounts. Apart from this, the most fascinating outcome of the entire experience was that, the data collected helped create a matrix that predicted demographic data like intelligence, personality and well-being and sensitive data like sexual orientation and religiosity with an amazing accuracy.

Does more data mean more knowledge?

Such an experiment could be materialized only because David Stillwell is trained in both Big data Analytics and Psychology. Hence a psychological test met with the big data application and an amazing feat was achieved in both the sciences.

“Knowledge is power,” according to the adage. Data, however, is not knowledge. In fact, these data mountains we generate are useless without the tools and techniques to mine them. This is why some of the most strategically important skills of the 21st century will be related to statistical analysis — transforming data into knowledge.

An article carried by presented some fascinating insights from the world of big data and its associations with other associated fields. The author Hannah Augur states that “Big data might know you better than you know yourself.” She reports further that there are four areas from researchers primarily collect data from. Existing data sets, social media, smartphones, and wearable devices. It’s a common thread that all the ways mentioned above that the data generated above is recorded and waiting to be used.

How does it the help the cause?

One may argue that data generation and recording has been around for generations. What is such a fuss about that? However, the fuss is not all about the tremendous volumes of data being generated by these technological gizmos, the fuss is all about the new algorithms that are being developed alongside.

Since much of the data-pools lie unused in most cases, these algorithms act as a tool that helps the researcher look for data. Data that can yield better insights. It’s an advancing science. Newer and better algorithms are worked upon and released every so often and they will become the soul of Behavioral Data Science.

From Big Data to Big impact

Apps like ‘MyBehaviour’ and ‘StressSense’ developed by Tanzeem Choudhury, an information scientist at Cornell University uses the interaction of Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Psychology. It helps individuals with Bipolar disorder and Depression make better decisions by monitoring the data that they collect about themselves through devices and services mentioned above. The app with the help of history data helps them identify the most difficult time of the day for them and makes suggestions to control that situation.

However small, this application demonstrates how this field is ready to be used on a scale much grander than this.

The promise that BBD makes is of looking at the data a little differently. It looks at data to provide insights that prove out to be accurate and helpful for advancing various institutions and workforces humans belong to.

It promises to create and use data that is created in volumes at an astonishing rate. It aids us to make better and informed decisions about our day to day uncertain life. In a world, as uncertain as the 21st century, informed decision-making is an organisation’s biggest asset.

Of course, there is a big jump needed from data to real insights, intelligent decisions, and future predictions. Which is exactly where the young blood in psychology can make a mark. The new-age psychologists are not just academicians proposing something in silos, but are tech-savvy researchers looking to marry psychology with technology.

We will have to wait and watch where they take us from here…

Contributions by :

  1. Anand Rai, Psychology Research Intern
  2. Deepika Anu, Chief Product Officer
  3. Mayank Sharma, Chief Technical Officer

Originally published at on September 27, 2017.